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My Favorite Word is No

For most of my life, I’ve used the word “No” as a staple; like the pasta, rice, and potatoes of my social diet. I threw in Yeses very carefully and intentionally, like salt and pepper, or a sprinkle of Parmesan, for flavor.

001

“Did you say Parmesan?”

I have had to work very hard to add the word “Yes” into my vocabulary, because I tend to feel overwhelmed by the cascade caused by even one small yes. Saying yes to graduate school in social work has put me into an avalanche of situations and expectations that I can’t really say no to, because they were all included in that first yes.

033

“Saying no is much more fun!”

I know people who are much more comfortable with yeses, maybe because they have more faith that the universe won’t give them more than they can handle (I strenuously disagree), or because they have faith in their own ability to adapt to whatever comes (I definitely don’t have that).

 

I think my willingness to say “Yes” to more opportunities was instigated by all of the No’s I received: all of the rejections for my writing, rejections of friendship or love, failures to make progress in directions that mattered to me. I had to start saying “Yes” to things that might genuinely come to pass, even if they were not what I had imagined for myself.

002

Cricket hates when people say no to her.

I’ve said yes to going to doctors again, though that doesn’t feel great. I’ve said yes to dog-sitting and even bird-sitting, but not to adopting a new dog, not yet. I’ve said yes to all of the work I need to do for my master’s degree in social work, whether I like it or not, agree with it or not. I force myself to say “Yes” even when I desperately want to say no. And as a result, I feel less like myself, and less in touch with myself.

 

 

My instinct to say No was about retaining my independence, and my individuality. Saying “Yes” feels like an acceptance of the world as it is, and a loss of my hope that the world can be better. And yet, as I have learned to say “Yes” to more things, I have begun to feel more capable, and more likely to survive. I just hope that some of those yeses will transform into a life that I love. Someday.

006

Cricket is dubious.

 

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

84 responses »

  1. A wonderful post Rachel. It is hard to say no but essential to maintain our well being . You seem to have a good handle on when to say no… and yes. ❤️

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  2. ‘Yesses’ open up a whole new world! I tend to say yes more than no because I think I can do it all. Yeah. Good luck to me. 🙂 Poor Cricket…give her a bit more Parmesan on her chicken. 🙂

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  3. It will. I believe it. Cricket does not like her hair brush, I take it?

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  4. wishing you joy in all your endeavors 🙂

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  5. “Maybe” works for me.

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  6. You should feel empowered by being able to now respond “yes” or “no”. Many, myself included, at one time used to say “yes” to everything. It was my desire for others to see me as “indispensable”, or a “friend” or “the go-to guy”. All it did was burn me out and turn me into an angry -internally – person. And then about the age of 40, I stopped. I dole out “yes” sometimes and “no” sometimes, and only care what God thinks. (Ok, so I still care what my wife thinks….mostly)

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  7. Yeses can be scary for some of us.. lol! I saw my doctor yesterday. It had been over two years, since I said yes to making an appt and now I will be saying yes to a colonoscopy, eventually..

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  8. It’s sometimes hard to say ‘yes’, and it’s sometimes hard to say, ‘no’. I won’t agree to something unless I’m satisfied with it. Sometimes, ‘no’ is the right answer. I could cite examples of catastrophe as a result of saying ‘yes’. On the other hand, sometimes it turns out a great deal better if one says ‘yes’. I think we must all cultivate wisdom 🙂

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  9. Ted can relate strongly to this.

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  10. I hope that your life turns out to be beautiful and something you truly enjoy!

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  11. Sometimes yeses can open up new opportunities, then again, sometimes they can bring stress. The key is to be open to new opportunities while knowing your limits. Trust your gut, and, if you need to, take time to think about it. 🙂

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  12. You want a bird full time?

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  13. You’ve gotten some good comments already. communications between people (and between people and animals too) gets better the more we’re able to communicate the subtlety of some situations. Just having two choices, as in the case of most switches, is a limitation. Sometimes it can be a trap. And if you’re afraid of getting trapped into something, it’s quite natural to respond with a no. But there are man possibilities. You can say, I’ll think about it. You can say, I’ll consider that as a possibility. Maybe I’ll be able to deal with that, but not right now. It’s worth some consideration, and so on. You can let the person know that you are friendly, but have to get used to an idea or want to think about it, and what it might involve.Just a flat out no stops conversation. But there are a lot of words that’ll leave an issue open to discussion. I think that works much better. Keep on trucking, Rachel. It looks like you have some good plans ahead.

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  14. Angela@grapegravy​

    I myself am learning the art of saying no. I used to say yes to so many things that it was completely overwhelming and would find myself dreading the moment I had to do the things I said yes to. I am now more choosey with those yeses. No is not a bad thing.

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  15. I started saying yes to things about 15 years ago, when I realized that my life had become very narrow and restricted by my fear of trying anything new, of getting hurt, of losing control. I don’t say yes to everything, but learning to say yes has brough me my Bear, my Max and a bunch of friends, a wealth of new experiences, and a greater joy in this world. Say yes to that, my friend, and you can still say no to the stuff you don’t want

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  16. Great post. Made me think. I could say ‘no’ more often. Guess it’s about feeling what’s right for you, rather than what you think you should say. Not always easy!

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  17. I love this post and the dog photos! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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  18. When faced with Yes/No choices, my reaction is usually to think about it, then say “Maybe tomorrow”. Procrastination has been my lifelong friend. If I put something off long enough, it tends to become a lot less important. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  19. I read a book a few years ago, When I Say No, I Feel Guilty. But we have to be assertive too, right?

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  20. Hope the “yes’s” in life gets easier and bring you much happiness 🙂

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  21. One of the reasons we moved away from my home town was because we grew tired of living our lives for other people. We were expected to say Yes to every request, whim, or convenience to suit them. When we said NO, all hell let loose. When we said NO to so called friends when we moved to Lincolnshire in 2007, they no longer wanted to be our friends.
    Now we feel confident to say yes or no as the situation requires, knowing people accept us as we are and not for what we can do for them. Makes a difference.

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  22. When my friend Jim was dying from cancer, he often said, “Think big thoughts,” as he pondered how big our God is. After he died, I experimented with “Just say ‘yes'” and found that saying “yes” opened me to so many opportunities. I am still challenged to move against my resistance to “yes” but mostly when I overcome my resistance, the result is something magical and I feel blessed and grateful.

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  23. Thanks for opening up about seeing doctors. I care deeply about a friend for whom I’m trying to get a mental health professional to see. It’s important for everyone to be more aware, so we can all get the treatment we need and deserve.

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  24. Pretty is truly unable to say the word No to anything. I wish you could give her lessons!

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  25. This is a very poignant post. I think many of us struggle when we begin to say yes to situations that don’t feel right to us, and have to let go of some of our long-held expectations. But I’m hoping that those yeses will move you in a direction that ultimately does feel comfortable and rewarding. Sometimes its just the transition that is so very hard. Best of luck to you!

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  26. I have learned to say no without feeling bad. When some one knocks at the door to sell something or push their religion I open the door and without hesitation I say” no I am not interested” I catch them off guard as usually one invites them in and listens to what they have to say. I been though it so many times and besides life is to short. I have to say no to my German Shepard on the extra treats because she is on a diet to have her spay. I feel good about the no because I see her looking and feeling better. I don’t have a problem with no. It lets me live life on my terms and when I say yes it is my choice.

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  27. it’s kind
    to say 🙂

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  28. This is very profound, Rachel. And I can relate to a lot of it. I am thankful for your ability to articulate it all….

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  29. Thank you, Rachel, for your honesty!!
    Michael

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  30. Rachel, I think you are already a practicing social worker or psychologist. You start so many conversations on your blog. I thought the statement that you feel less like yourself, and less in touch, when you say no very interesting. It made me visualize setting a boundary around yourself, and I remember that feeling of drifting away without any edges. I am so sorry you have been hurt.

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  31. I found this an interesting post. In contrast w/ your situation, it has taken me many years to be able to say “No”. 🙂

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  32. Say no, say it often if you want to. What’s the worst can happen?

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  33. Interesting, most of us need to learn to say no, not yes. It’s what I’ve been practicing. Knowing when to say NO for me!! 🙂 It’s a very empowering word.

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  34. Rachel, if I look back, the regrets with the word “no” are far fewer than with the word “yes.” In business, work tends to find good people. Yet, these good people tend to get overloaded. Too often, they are talked into saying yes to a new project when they should have said no. As a result, the project may not be successful or on time or both. So, it is far better to say no and suggest an alternative than saying yes and letting someone down. Keith

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  35. I love your analogy of using “no” as a staple food and “yes” as a seasoning! It’s given me food for thought.

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  36. Great post! And the pictures of Cricket are so cute (as always). What kind of dog is Cricket?

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  37. Interesting post Rachel. But I do so hope you will say yes when asked to empty that waste paper into the recycle bin. How is the dog search going? Or has that gone by the wayside for the moment?

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  38. Pingback: 3 Day Quote Challenge: day two | Words Like Honey

  39. Don’t hate me Rachel… Just say no! lol!

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  40. I’m feeling all of this lately. The fear of the Yes!

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  41. Saying No was something that I had to learn. It took years before I managed to do so. Saying yes to everyone wore me out and led to depression. I admire your common sense and strong knowledge of self. Good luck with your studies. Say hello to Cricket for me. My first dog was a poodle who was a great friend when I needed one.

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  42. Very well put, Rachel. We need yes *and* no, but it can be hard to balance the two.

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  43. Enjoyed the reading..thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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